Here is a place to spend an entire week of solid wandering among California's unique coastal range in the San Lucia Mountains, part of the Los Padres National Forest and the Ventana Wilderness (Window Wilderness). Last May, myself and others tramped through this wilderness for 5 days and over 50 miles, beginning at Bottcher's Gap and ending at Pfeiffer State Park. This scenic odyssey is best remembered for its expansive vistas, blooming wildflowers and pestering bugs, which seemed to love the wildflowers as much as we did. This was also a wonderful experience discovering the headwaters of the Carmel River and eventually rising into Pine Valley, a rustic, pristine valley tucked away from society (and the bugs!). From there we crested Pine Ridge and descended toward the foggy coast, stopping at Sykes camp to soak in the popular hot springs beneath towering redwood trees. We deserved a soak too after 40 miles of hiking, much of it up and down. From Sykes camp we hiked another 11 miles downhill to the cool coast, thus ending our odyssey. Here is the longer version of our 5 day trip with more cool pictures. Also visit the photo gallery below to see more pictures of this incredible place too.
Best Part: wildflowers, plant diversity, solitude, reaching the headwaters of the Carmel River, redwood trees, challenging hiking
Directions: From Highway 101 south of Carmel (about 23 miles), turn east on Palo Colorado Road for 8 miles until you reach the end. This windy road contains a wonderful grove of redwood trees. Proceed to Bottcher's Gap as listed below or you can start at Pfeiffer State Park also listed below (with a parking fee).Forum Board: Ventana Wilderness Forum Board, created by Boon Hughey
Los Padre National Forest
Monterey Ranger District
406 So. Mildred Avenue
King City, CA 90930
several campgrounds on a first-come first-serve basis (no reservations). Pfeiffer State Park requires a reservation. Here are some campgrounds that provide access the Ventana Wilderness.
Bottcher's Gap - located on Palo Colorado Road off Hwy 101, 8 miles at the end of this road. 11 units, piped water, $12 fee.
China Camp & White Oaks Campgrounds - Access via Cachagua Rd. off Carmel Valley Rd. (approx. 23 miles from 101 junction) or 28 miles from Greenfield off U.S. 101 via the unsurfaced Jamesburg-Tassajara Road. 6 units, no water, no fee.
Pfeiffer State Park - located 29 miles south of Carmel on Highway 101. Reservations required - call MIXTIX at 1 (800) 444-PARK. Very Popular. 217 campsites for tents and motorhomes, lots of facilities, around $16 plus MISTIX fee
Wilderness Permit: Required for overnight use and obtained at any contact point or headquarters. Can write or call U.S. Forest Service for them.
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